Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Queen's Park - January morning sun-burst

This is just a little morning snap-shot of Queen's Park - there is much I want to say about this lovely town centre park. The park was created on the site of what was possibly an old quarry, later used as a brickworks (see comment below by Graham Carter) back in the 1950's - the steep bank on the far side of the lake is closed off to the public because of risk of subsidence. This little bit of Swindon has some underground tunnels which were built when GWR attempted to link Old Town Station with the 'New Town' station, however, they had to abandon the project because of subsidence.
There is a quite recent little memorial garden tucked away in one corner but it deserves far more than a passing mention so I will come back to it later.
Note: Thank you to Graham Carter for the information about the tunnels at the back of Queen's Park, I have amended the above accordingly. I checked with Wikipaedia about Purbeck Stone under 'History of Swindon', they trace its use back to the Romans as there is evidence that this stone was used in Roman villas found in the area. Wikipaedia gives both the Town Gardens and Queen's Park as quarry sites, though it has to be said there is far more evidence of this stone in the Town Gardens (I did a post back in October last year about it). Thanks for the encouraging words in both comments - just me walking around with a digital camera in my pocket, as I have chosen not to own a car.

Queen's Park - moss covered sarsens in the morning light

Large moss covered boulders and stones, probably local Wiltshire sarsens. I had forgotten about these until I walked through Queens's Park this morning - quite beautiful with the bright January morning sunlight shafting through the old willow tree.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Coate Water - a winter view

A place close to my heart and where I started my walk today. Not hidden at all - but I couldn't leave Coate Water out of this blog. A place for all seasons, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and really forms the focal point for all of the entries on this blog today as it has a connection to Richard Jefferies, the sarsen stones, Hodson, the hamlet of Coate and so much more. A part that I am especially fond of is the Tree Collection which is the most lovely place to walk in the Spring when many of the trees are heavy with blossom.

The Heronry - the smaller of the lakes and home to the grey heron. There is a hide here for anyone who wants to quietly observe the herons and other bird species.

Searching for sarsens - around Coate and Hodson

Spotted whilst walking around Hodson - this stone looks as though it has gathered much moss so very much belongs to its setting.

This beautiful stone was found in Hodson Wood and perhaps gave me the most pleasure to find as I was looking for snowdops and it was just there (plus snowdops, not yet quite out). It is actually very big and looks as though it may have possibly at one time been standing.
These stones are to be found at Coate Water Country Park where they have been placed in the recent past - they have almost certainly been imported from the Marlborough Downs though may possibly been saved during the motorway construction. Although not in their ancient setting they are still lovely to look at and touch.

Hodson Wood and Village - with snowdrops

The first snowdrops, my favourite of all flowers, too delicate to be plucked -they just grow in damp, shady places - a little messager to say Spring will follow soon. Next weekend is the feast of Imbolc (or Candlemas), of all the pagan or 'turning of the year' celebrations this is my very favourite. It was when I first 'saw the light' of how truly beautiful the natural world is.
Other names for the snowdrop are purification flower, fair maid of February and Candlemas bells .

The snow's fair coverlet is spread
Lightly on the lawn and garden bed
Where the white-wimpled snowdrops blow
(John Gordon)

This magical little village is tucked away behind Coate Water and just before Chiseldon - unlike any other little hamlet in the area it truly is one of Swindon's best kept secrets.

Bevis - the Council Oak and Cecily's Bridge at Coate

These are the actual places where the writer Richard Jefferies, from Coate played and grew up. He later wrote his famous children's book 'Bevis' based on his childhood adventures around the area of Coate Water - back then, no motorway, no dual carriage way and no massive hospital serving the now very large town of Swindon. Hopefully what is left of this precious land-scape is now going to be protected from development as Bath University has bowed to the pressure of the Save Coate Water Campaign - three cheers for Jean Saunders and her dedicated team of protesters who have fought tirelessly to bring this outcome about. Thank you.

Coate Hamlet and a milestone

79 miles to London - this old milestone still stands at the side of the road in little hamlet of Coate, now just a few houses tucked away by the dual carriage way that leads to the M4.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

The ordinary around us.....

Walking in my lunch-break, the spare beauty of a January day can be seen in the most ordinary of places - here an empty nest in a hawthorn hedge along a cycle track.

Willows in winter

The bare, beautiful branches of willows in winter

Watery Willows - after the rain

This is a little stream I visit in my lunch-break - it emerges from underground just around here and is probably the same stream that was culverted off when the dual carriage (Queen's Drive) was being built half a century ago - marking the commencement of modern Swindon's rapid expansion. I have not yet completed my geographical homework on this little stream but I think it either is, or belongs to, the river Cole. Today it is in flood after the heavy rain of the previous day. Further upstream in the area of Covingham this little river has boken its banks. The entire west country is affected again - with more rain to come. I understand this is a direct result of Global Warming.
Time to leave the car at home my friends - and rediscover your feet.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Moss on a wall - still life

The Wall - a poem by Mary Stewart
I built myself a garden wall
Against the robber, Love,
With rose-entangled moat below
And thorns above.
I planted beds of hellebore,
Foxgloves and aconite,
And hedges thick of poison yew
That killed the light.
My trees stood up against the sun,
So black, so thick, so tall,
That safe I thought to sleep behind
My garden wall.
But oh! he stole in the still night
To spoil my garden's pride,
And saw no wall, for all the gates
Were open, wide.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Some more historic buildings in Old Town

Bath Road Methodist Church
Built with strangely austere grey stone - it was constructed in 1880
The 'gingerbread house' - or rather houses.

Two very attractive brick Victorian residential houses on Drove Road near the entrance to Queen's Park.

The Old Vicarage on Bath Road - an example of one of Swindon's many red brick Victorian buildings. I am told the Old Vicarage stood derelict for many years after a new smaller vicarage was built next to Christ Church. It is now rather desirable retirement flats with many of the original Victorian features retained.

The Corn Exchange
The famous Corn Exchange - part of the very fabric of Old Town, Swindon when it was just another little Wiltshire hill-top market town. It has had a chequered history since it fell out of use as the Corn Exchange, known as the Locarno back in the 1960's it was the venue for many well known pop groups of that era. I understand that it then had a stint as a bingo hall, oh dear! More recently it was very badly damaged by fire and has since stood virtually derelict. However, it has been bought by a local businessman and there are plans to restore it retaining at least the tower and facade (sadly, much of the building has been deemed unsafe).

The Frome Hotel - Hythe Road

Now private apartments, the Frome Hotel on Hythe Road closed as a public house in 1978. I have it on good authority that an excellent pint of cider could be had there. The ceramic plaque (below) is still visible on the side of the building, giving a clue to its history.

The ceramic plaque on the building that was once the Frome Hotel

The Providence Chapel, South Street
Now also a private residence - the Providence Chapel on South Street dates back to the middle of the 1800s (1845), built of locally quarried Purbeck Stone, it is a rather lovely building both inside and out. See also October's entries for other historic buildings in the Prospect Place area also built from local stone.
A row of houses on Prospect Place - built from locally quarried stone.

Walking through the Lawns - January morning

Looking across towards the Marlborough Downs - just visible on the misty horizon.

A bright January morning at the Lawns - looking towards the little Holy Rood Church. This little church was the place of worship for the Lord of Manor and the local people until it was replaced in the 19th century by Christ Church (see December).

Winter woodland

Out for a morning stroll (for Eileen)

I met this group of Canada geese stepping out when I was returning from my most enjoyable walk around the nearby lakes. My friend Eileen (who lives nearby) assures me they are a regular sight - walking in unison to the green areas on the nearby housing estate, looking for fresh grass. I had to smile as they brought the local traffic to a halt.

The Shaftesbury Lakes

A haven for Canada geese, ducks and other wild-fowl these lakes are small in comparison to Coate. They are, however, linked to Coate by the river Cole - with housing estates on both sides this unsung lake complex with its river walk provides a peaceful place of tranqility for an early morning wander. Definitely a bit of Hidden Swindon.

A walk by the River Cole on a January morning

The river was flowing quite fast under the little bridge - there appear to be some sarsen stones on the bank. I wonder where they came from - my ordinance survey map shows a stone circle not far away on Dayhouse Lane but no-one I know has ever found it. Perhaps these stones were removed from the site of the stone circle .......

I only discovered this charming, quite well hidden walk today. For some time now I had noticed (from the bus) the profusion of willows on the land near the Coate Water roundabout. This January morning felt bright and fresh after a night of heavy rain - so on with the walking boots, I headed for Coate Water. Instead of going into Coate I turned left into Shaftesbury Ave, crossed the road to discover one of Swindon's many lovely places to walk. The river Cole appears to be fed by Coate Water but a little bit of geographical detective work is needed to verify this.